One of the world’s most important prizes in academics is the Templeton Prize. Nominees for this prize of over a million dollars must have qualities “of creativity and innovation, rigor and impact… and above all a substantial record of achievement that highlights or exemplifies one of the various ways in which human beings express their yearning for spiritual progress.”
The 2017 winner is Dr. Alvin Carl Plantinga. Time magazine (April 5, 1980) described Plantinga as “America’s leading orthodox Protestant philosopher of God.” In 1982 he was appointed as the John A. O’Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame where he taught until 2010. As a graduate student at Notre Dame during those years, I was personally affected by Dr. Plantinga’s work. I have followed his teachings as he returned to Calvin College in Grand Rapids where he and his family started their careers. Dr. Plantinga has degrees and honors from major universities all around the world including Harvard, Yale, University of Michigan, Oxford, and Glasgow, just to mention a few.
What qualifies Alvin Plantinga is not his degrees or honors, but his work. The question of how to comprehend the existence of evil in a world where God is omnipotent and omniscient has been the focus of Plantinga’s work. The relationship and compatibility of scientific and religious belief and evolutionary arguments against naturalism are two of the main themes that Plantinga presents and defends in his books. He also challenges the militant atheism and materialism that exists in the minds of many people today. He argues that the real conflict is not in the disciplines–not between science and religion–but rather between theism and naturalism. Plantinga’s reviews of atheists Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins concludes that their work is “poor philosophy masquerading as science.”
This ministry is not involved in philosophical debate, but when the academic community honors an outstanding and well-recognized Christian philosopher, we want to join in the applause. We have learned a great deal from Dr. Alvin Plantinga. Every time I read anything he wrote, I realize how much more I need to learn. That is the greatest compliment anyone can give a lifetime of work. The Templeton Prize got it right.
–John N. Clayton © 2018